McBee Pioneers on Oregon Trail – 1852

Brief History of the Pioneer McBee’s (MaGBee’s) and (MacBee’s) in North America and on the early Oregon Trail – 1852

By Richard H. McBee Jr.

Basic ref.: Out of the Wilderness by Janice Mercer, Illustrated by Helen Scott, Clinton Press, 1973

Originally from Scotland in the area of Lochbar as a part of the MacBean Clan and later Eastern Invernesshire. The whole  clan migrating somewhere after the end of the “1745” rebellion to America aand parts unknown to escape English persecution of the Scots. Name change appears to have occurred enroute to the America’s.  Arrived through the Port of Philadelphia to the State of Maryland they took up land in Halifax County, Virginia. Originally Quakers by religion, but gave up the faith at the time of the revolutionary war.

  1. William (I) MaGBee (McBee) (b. 17–  – died 1758? Halifax County, Virginia). His will from the Parish of Atrium is in The Halifax County, Virginia, Book “0” p. 58 was attested to by William in 1758 (witness Richard Davis). The will was exhibited in Halifax County Court on March 10, 1759 by his wife Susanna MagBee for probate following his death. Sons James and Mathias co-executors, other children:  Son – Vardry Magbee, Son – Samuel Magbee, Daughter – Elizabeth Magbee (Howard), Daughter – Mary Magee (Austin)
  2. James MagBee (McBee) married and moved to The Carolinas with brother Vardry and his wife prior to the revolutionary war.  James had a number of children, one being Thomas McBee.
  3. Thomas McBee (I) married Rachel Riley and moved to Ohio. They had nine children, Elizabeth, Margaret, James, David, William (II), Levi, Thomas (II), John, and Henry. Thomas McBee passed away in Ohio. In 1835, the boys and their mother, Rachel Riley McBee left Canton, Ohio and went to St. Louis, Missouri by boat. From there they settled 12 miles east of Hardin, Missouri.  The river crossing at that point was called McBee Landing. They planted their crops in spring and then the river flooded with the spring thaw waters from the Rockies and they were driven into the hills, so then in late 1835 they moved to just South of Millville, in Ray County, Missouri. It was during this time from 1835 – 1852 that the McBee’s helped a number of Mormons who had come to Missouri escape from the raiders who were raiding and burning their houses and fields, trying to drive them out with several massacres in 1838-39 in Ray county.
  4. William (II) McBee: Born Nov. 18, 1801 in Frederick County, Maryland, died 11 April 1862, and is buried at Wagner’s Butte, Benton County, Oregon. He married an Elizabeth Milligan on June 12, 1828 in Stark County Ohio. Record are confused on her birth/age:  born March 8, 1813 or (1803) from either Pennsylvania or Ohio she died 27 or 29 January, 1898, in Benton County, Oregon. Her headstone at Wagner’s Butte says Elizabeth – 29 January, 85 years making 1813 more likely. Their children were: Rachel, John W., Thomas, George, Elizabeth, William Henry, Joseph, David, James P., and Nancy McBee
  5. Oregon Trail Journey (1852): A large number of the members of the McBee Clan left Ray County, Missouri on April 1, 1882 to cross the plains to Oregon. According to the experience written by Caroline Beeman (nee’ McBee by Levi, brother of William (II): The caravan was composed of approximately 15 teams of oxen most owed by the McBees. The families included:
  6. Matriarch – Rachel Riley
  7. William (II) McBee- son + wife Elizabeth (Milligan)
  8. Levi McBee, son of Rachel: died of Cholera May 1852 in Ft. Kearney, Nebraska + wife Elizabeth (Ream) died of Cholera May 1852 Ash Hollow, Nebraska near the Platte River. Children: Henry died in Ash Hollow, Nebraska, Survivors: Barbara Ann, Isaiah, Caroline, Mary Pauline, and Rebecca
  9. Thomas (II) McBee- son

John W. McBee(My great Grandfather) – son of Thomas (II).

  • There may have been other families along as this is about the same time the Grubbs clan (of which Josephine Grubbs, age 5 at that time, was a part) went across on the Oregon trail. Josephine Grubbs was apparently from one of the 5 “Civilized” tribes and had apparently attended a Carlisle School (Although the records seem to have been lost, but I wonder about this as her age would probably preclude that unless it was in Oregon at a later date.). Her family also left for Oregon in 1852 and she later married my Great Grandfather,  John W. McBee in Oregon.
  • Remaining behind in Missouri were three McBee brothers: David, James, and Henry.
  • Oregon trail Passage synopsis of descriptions: based on the stories of Isaiah McBee born 9 Feb., 1840 to Levi McBee and Elizabeth Ream McBee in “An Illustrated History of Klckitat, Yakima and Kittitas Counties: with an outline of the Early History of the State of Washington,” Chicago: Inst. Publ., 1904, p. 421; and Story as told by Caroline McBee born 19 Feb., 1842, Married Rufus H. Beeman, Roseburg, OR., 24 Feb., 1856 as described in: “The Descendents of Thomas Beeman of Kent, Conn.” By Gwen B. Bjorkman, 1971.

Caroline and Levi McBee both children of Levi and Elizabeth McBee both traveled with their parents on the McBee Clan wagon train from Ray County, Missouri. Departing between 9 February, and April 1, 1852, the McBee’s traveled the trail having been lured by descriptions of the wealth of the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Levi owned two teams, the other McBee families all owned one or two teams of oxen themselves. Levi was elected Captain of the caravan. The family was plagued by illness so that after crossing the Missouri, they reached the Platte and shortly thereafter Levi was struck suddenly with Cholera near Ft. Kearny, Nebraska, where the caravan had stopped for several weeks. He died within 24 hours. After the wagon train resumed its progress, Elizabeth, Levi’s wife, was also stuck with Cholera near Ash Hollow, Nebraska and died. Left behind were her seven orphans, two of whom died further along the route.  For dry camps they had to carry water for the oxen and often walked a number of miles to reach waterholes. Fires were made from sagebrush or buffalo chips on the plains.  The matriarch, Rachel Riley, was buried somewhere south of the Black Hills of what is now South Dakota. The Wagon train came by way of Ft. Boise reaching the Cascades before winter. The orphans decided to stay in The Dalles, while the rest of the McBee wagon train went on to Portland. Choosing to go to Portland by river, they made rafts which broke up in the rapids near what is now Cascade Locks, Oregon. They lost many things. In the spring of 1853, Caroline and the other orphans who had remained in The Dalles, carried their packs 5 miles to the port area only to find that the ferry only went once every two weeks. A Mr. McNall invited the orphans to stay with him and when they went onto Portland, Caroline stayed behind to help McNall’s wife look after their baby. The steamboat Captain, a Mr. Wells had his wife coming to Oregon, and she stayed with the McNalls as well and invited Caroline to go on to Oregon City with her. Caroline accompanied her to Portland and met her brother-in-law Mr. Edward Chambreau( b. 1821, d. 1902) who had married Caroline’s sister, Barbara Ann McBee (b. 14 Sept., 1837, d. 15 Apr. 1927) on 13 December, 1852 in Forest Grove, Oregon.

  •  John W. McBee, My great Grandfather,  (the son of Thomas McBee and Rachel Riley), two versions which I am trying to track down:
  •  According to the “Index and Vol. of Genealogical Material in Oregon Donation Land Claims,” published by the Genealogical Forum of Portland, Oregon, Inc.,  John W. McBee arrived in Oregon in 1852 and states: “John McBee: Vol. 1, #1224, Marion County, 310 Acres, born 1819, Stark County, Ohio: arrived Oregon, 1 October, 1852; Settled Claim 8 February, 1853; m. Sarah Matheny, 13 July, 18454/46 Ray County, Missouri.”
  • According to “Out of the Wilderness” p. 4, Oak Leaf, John W. McBee was married twice, once on 31 October, 1855 in Marion County, Oregon to Almira Elizabeth Mathena born in Indiana and died 1868.
  • Somewhere along the line, apparently John W. McBee’s first wife died and he then remarried Josephine Grubbs. See p. 5 of “Out of the Wilderness,” under “Parents of Henry Burton McBee: John Wesley McBee born 9 February 1831…. Married Josephine Grubbs born May 9, 1847 in Niles, Michigan and died 21 September, 1893. The parents of Josephine Grubbs were: John Grubbs, b. 7 Jan., 1801, Pittsburg, Penn., and Susan Austen, b. Mar. 10, 1814 in Castle Gate, England.
  • Note: there is  a further reference to land owned by John W. McBee in “Out of the Wilderness,” to wit: “ They had a land claim of 170 acres Number OC 3958 and settled his claim 15 September, 1855 (Vol. 2, Genealogical Material in Oregon Donation Land Claims) p. 336 – Vol. 27 Oregon Historical Society Quarterly – McBee Island and McBee Slough, West Bank of Willamette River, South of Corvallis named for J. W. McBee pioneer settler.”
  • Henry Burton McBee and Elmer Frances McBee (My Grandfather) apparently both were sons of John W. McBee and Josephine, Grubbs in this second marriage. Somewhere in my own family papers is a testimony by two of Elmer’s elder brothers that testifies for court records that they had been old enough to remember his birth to verify its date for legal purposes
  • My father, Richard H. McBee, b. May 5, 1916 in Eugene, Oregon, d. Jan. 23, 1995 in Hood River, Oregon was sure that his grandmother, Josephine Grubbs was ½ Native American and had been adopted into the Grubbs family after she had attended a Carlisle School somewhere. No records exist for her and no pictures of her seem to be in the Grubbs family collections that have a name to verify anything and my father’s inquiries met a dead end when he was informed by the government that the records for many of the Carlisle schools were destroyed by fire. So this apparently goes nowhere unless someone in that gene pool has Native American DNA that can be traced back to her, or her mother or father which sounds unlikely.

I hope that this short history goes out to enough McBees to help those who are still true Genealogists to trace some further information which might lead to opening up the connection to the California McBees and the Washington McBees, all of whom with this surname probably came out on this Wagon train.

Enjoy!

2 Comments on “McBee Pioneers on Oregon Trail – 1852

  1. Hiya – I am also a McBee Descendant and just got into DAR as a descendant of Abraham Ream, whose granddaughter wed Levi McBee. Would love to connect; feel free to email me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Meredith, Thanks for the nice comment. Yes, very interesting on p. 314 of the Janice Mercer book “Out of the Wilderness” the information showing Abraham Ream being born in Pennsylvania, 24 August, 1749. Definitely long term residents of the colonies before independence. My sisters were evidently never interested in joining the DAR,although I am a member of the Sons of Veterans of the Civil War, through the Richard Headley Clow side of our family.

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